Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Monday, June 29, 2015
Saturday, June 20, 2015
I wanted to start this blog under more positive circumstances, but as is often the case, I am driven to write not by joy but by desperate grief and rage; after the massacre in Charleston this week, I had to express myself, the truth as I understand it, to do my part to peacefully resist the lies of violent hatred.
Having read the apparent manifesto by the admitted murderer, I wanted to respond to the destructive, delusional beliefs that he had that helped drive him to kill good people.
But before I do that, I want to talk about the victims and survivors of this injustice. Too often, when a young white man kills a group of strangers, people wring their hands over the killer, yet when an innocent, unarmed black child is killed by a police officer, his entire family is insulted. So I want to make it clear I am not writing this from that state of mind.
But Why address the killer at all? Why talk to or about him? Because he did not act alone. He acted based on a long tradition of racism, in a place where the flag of segregation and slavery flies high. He says himself that he was taught white supremacy in school, taught so much about how superior white people are that their whiteness wasnt even mentioned, and so little about black people that the few times they were mentioned it was in a tokenized way, until his world view was such that he believed all good things in life came from white people, which is not the least little bit unusual in America and many other places. He was encouraged by adults who knowingly misled this under-educated, willfully ignorant youth and fueled his hate. He was given a weapon by his parents. He had friends who listened uncritically to his racist jokes and took pictures of him expressing his racism, he was able to purchase symbols of his racism to wear publicly. So I write to him because I hope, perhaps wrongly, that maybe, just maybe, if enough of us speak out, our words can reach men like him before they hurt good people for no good reason. Because it is not the burden of black people to change their lives according to what white people demand, to become perfect slaves to white people, to beg white people to not murder them, it is up to white people to fix the problem of white racism.
The killer did not see the men and women he killed as people, and they were indeed people, people who welcomed him and anyone else to sit and pray with them, whose warmth shone through the killer's hate long enough to give him pause even if he was too far gone to be saved at that time. I am not personally a religious person, I should mention; I don't base my assessment their virtue on their beliefs, but on their actions in their lives, and that church was a place of peace, love, and justice, no matter how many times that petty white men with hate in their hearts attacked that church, it still stands strong.
A few words about who the victims were is not enough to tell you what was lost, and is not as rich as you will see on other sources (ie http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/06/victims-charleston-shooting); the news is still raw, hopefully soon you will see more of their stories in the news. Their loved ones describe them all as sweet, gentle, even heroic people.
Tywanza Sanders was only 26 years old and a committed student who worked at a barber shop and played music. When Roof turned his gun on Tywanza's 87 year old grandmother, Tywanza bravely offered his own life, begging the killer to kill him instead of his grandmother, diving in front of her and another woman to use his own body as a shield. The pitiless killer coldly shot them all anyway. Sanders was also an activist in supporting the #BlackLivesMatter campaign after the murder of Eric Garner.
(I feel compelled to pause and point out the difference between this young black man who went to church and worked and made music went to school and was kind and quiet and ultimately a hero at that age, and the unemployed unschooled white man who did no good in the world and murdered innocent older women and men in a church, and how the racist stereotypes are so clearly false in this comparison.)
Susie Jackson was Sanders' 87 year old grandmother, the type of woman who took in homeless neighbors in need with no place to go.
Ethel Lee Lance, 70, Susie's cousin, was also a grandmother and had worked at the church for 30 years, known as the "heart of [her] family" who could be depended upon "for anything".
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was a 45 year old mother of three children, a coach, and a reverend.
Reverend Clementa Pinckney was a 41 year old state senator and pastor of the church.
Cynthia Hurd, 54, had worked as a local librarian for 31 years.
Myra Thompson, 59, was a mother and her husband was also a reverend.
Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor was described as a "songbird", and was a mother to four girls.
Rev. Daniel J. Simmons was a war veteran, a father, and a frat brother whose family said "Although he died at the hands of hate, he lived in the hands of love."
Three other intended victims were also at the church and survived, among them a five year old child.
We can help the survivors by donating (http://www.charleston-sc.gov/index.aspx?NID=1330) or simply sending some words of support; by recommitting ourselves to actively, peacefully oppose racism and violence on a regular basis in our lives, by voting and educating ourselves and speaking out and volunteering and so on.
If any of the survivors happen to read this, I want to tell them that my heart aches for them in their loss, the loss of the most valuable thing, a living person you love, which can never be returned, and I humbly admire their courage and dignity in the face of such true evil. I can hardly imagine forgiving someone who killed someone I love, yet many of the families openly stated forgiveness and mercy to the face of this killer only two days afterwards. That church, and those families, rest on an unbreakable foundation of wisdom, love, and strength, and after this day I will always admire and love and revere Mother Emanuel for that, and answer the call when you need me.
I would also like to say that Roof's family are NOT the victims here, as the racist (havng been previously disciplined for using the N word in a court room to a black man's face) judge stated. No one shot Roof's family or their loved ones. Dylann is alive and his parents are the ones who provided him with weaponry and maybe with some of that hate. I do not mean to say they are not suffering, I certainly hope they feel sadness for the grieving families of the people their son killed, (and I know reports stated his sister was about to be married, and I can't help but wonder if he was trying to hurt her by picking this time to all but destroy his own life by killing innocent people), but the killer's family are not victims of a murderer, the victims are the ones who are dead or whose family members are dead.
also want note that while we watch black people, even children in their beds, like Aiyana Stanley Jones, are murdered by police with impunity, an armed killer of nine people at a church was captured alive and is even protected by a bulletproof vest whle in police custody.
The first thing that I want to say to Dylann Roof is this: I hope you already know how your deluded goals have failed. You wanted to reaffirm White Supremacy. What you did, instead, was show the world another example of how white supremacy is a terrible thing. From your action, the exact opposite of what you wanted has resulted. Even racist white people with hate in their hearts cannot look at a young man shooting up a room full of elderly women and think that white supremacy is the solution to this problem.
I want to tell you personally that as a white person assigned female, your killing black women is not in my fucking defense. I support my black sisters against actual rape and murder that white men systematically committed against them, and I condemn your use of the issue of rape as an excuse to kill women, particularly when you have no concept of the difference between rape and consent, when you have no respect for women's right to control their own bodies, when you see women as your property to own or despise of, how dare you add an extra layer of evil and stupidity to your terrible crime and invoke the spectre of rape when you are a white man committing murder against women of color?!
In your manifesto (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/20/dylann-roof-manifesto-charleston-shooting_n_7627788.html), you revealed your ignorance and hate, but you revealed other things as well. You called black people violent, but not one black person has personally committed violence against you, and you killed peaceful black people who welcomed you into their peaceful church and who pleaded for their lives and then forgave you. You showed us all an example of WHITE violence, as an extension of systematic white violence.
You also showed a basic lack of understanding of really simple science, namely, that humans are all of the same species, and what a species is, and what the scientific method is and how we know we can trust actual scientific results above racist assumptions on random blogs. In the manifesto, you compared humans of different races mating to donkeys and mules mating. This is not the same thing, because unlike those animals that are different species but close enough to mate, all humans of all races are the exact same species. Scientists - hundreds of thousands, at least, of people who went to school for a lot longer than you, Dylann, have even been alive to achieve, who have studied human beings for longer than you have been alive, have long since concluded that humans are all one species. Your guesswork about how black skin somehow has an influence on the brain was once commonly believed and used as an excuse for slavery and other atrocities, and the very reason people turned away from those assumptions is because they educated themselves.
Hopefully in prison you will have some access to basic science books and you can see for yourself why most people do not base serious life decisions (like whether or not to throw your entire life away for an opportunity to kill good people) on mere assumptions, but actually do things like literally examine brains and conduct unbiased tests before reaching conclusions. If there was some dramatic difference in human brains based on skin tone, scientists would be able to see it. And considering how recently, say, oh let's just be lazy and go with the Nazis, were in power, there is no basis to believe that some authority has held back this research. But even if there were some reason, like actual real evidence, to believe that some evil Jewish conspiracy kept back all the scientific research about how black people's brains are so naturally evil that white boys should probably go shoot elderly black women praying in a church, you still have no reason or right to believe that it is true if you don't actually have any real scientific evidence of it.
Stepping away from the 2nd person address to Dylann, which has become a cumbersome pretense, I want to explain how simple critical thinking and research failings were a huge part of his problem that allowed his own biases and desire to feel superior to others to lead him down a destructive and irrational path; according to his own words, he began his research into the Trayvonne Martin case at Wikipedia, which can be helpful but can also be edited by anyone and does not measure up to, say, the work of skilled journalists applying the scientific method to their writing; from there he went in search, via googling "black on white crime", of a source that would conform to his already present biases. Upon finding that source, a hate group on file with the SPLC, he completely ignored other possible sources like, say, the FBI crime statistics that would have showed him that white people like himself did actually too frequently run around murdering innocent people, that most murder is intraracial, meaning most whites are murdered by other whites, and other actual facts. I could easily convince an ignorant person, against common knowledge and data, that most murderers are truly blonde women by presenting them with a long list of blonde woman murderers, but that wouldn't actually be empiracle proof of anything, particularly given that most murderers are actually men, not women.
Part of the problem is that Roof did not WANT to know the actual TRUTH. He wanted to feel superior to black people. Unable or unwilling to accomplish much of anything of value in his own life, he wanted to feel superior to others simply by virtue of his own skin tone, and also to blame an entire race of people for his own problems.
He goes on and on about how violent black people are while planning to murder black people who had never committed violent acts in their own lives. He talks about how black people are truly the racist ones while stating that whites are naturally superior and endorsing white oppression of black people. This is known as projection.
Before committing violence against a group of mostly women, he accused black people of raping "our" women. He saw white women as the property of white men. In fact, he didn't see women as having any ability or right to choose consensual relationships for themselves, as he calls white women who are in interracial relationships "victims". To him, "rape" is about a man having any sort of sexual or perhaps not even sexual but just romantic, even just friendly, contact with a woman that he, Roof, does not want the other man to have. He apparently has no concept of what rape really is, what consent is, that women are actually equal people, just as he doesn't seem to understand what violence is and doesn't consider blacks to be actual people. Part of his manifesto is saying that slavery wasnt so bad because not all slave owners whipped their slaves - as if that makes it OK to literally own someone and make them work for you for free. Did he not understand that slaves were slaves under the threat of violence, that is, of being murdered if they walked away? Does he see ANY people as actual people, besides himself?
He also expresses resentment that white people of today are held to some responsibility for the way white people in this country have historically behaved; because to his logic, only those who actually owned slaves should pay for slavery. But white people like Roof still benefit from their whiteness, which is why no one calls Roof a thug in the media and blasts his family, why he is still alive after shooting up a church, while black VICTIMS of homicide are attacked as thugs and blamed for their own murders when they literally did not break any laws or do anything wrong; Tamir Rice was only a child playing in a park, for example. Myriad studies -remember that science thing I was talking about earlier? - and real hard data show the effects of racism; how identical resumes will end up with the job going to a white person, how cops are more likely to arrest black people for the same crime, and so on. (ie http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1870408,00.html). Racist attitudes are so hard-wired and ingrained in our brains that even black children still think black dolls are uglier than white dolls, that even white people committed to anti-racism make split-second calculations that associate negative words with black faces. Roof saw the truth of this and spoke of it in his crappy, rushed-off little manifesto, but in the face of this evidence he simply shut his eyes, dug in his heels, and recommitted himself to his hatred. To some degree his ignorance was a choice, and it is a choice people make every day, to ignore reality and to commit to ideas that have no basis in reality because they maybe like how they feel.
Believing something that may not be true is not always necessarily a terrible thing in the same way, of course; the faith that the people in that church felt was clearly beneficial to their lives, and while they believe it is true, they really don't have any hard scientific evidence of that belief. But that belief did not cause them to harm themselves or others, instead it fueled them to be even better people. So I do not mean to say that false belief alone is the problem here. The larger problem is hate, blind hate and anger, and violence.
Roof's commitment to feeling superior, to feeling hatred did not benefit him in any way. He lost his freedom and will almost definitely (if he were not a white man I would be more confident in saying definitely) be in prison for the rest of his life, where he is unlikely to be able to enjoy simple pleasures like getting an icre cream on a beach or deeper needs like having a fulfilling career, falling in love, starting a family. The people he killed had worked hard for their lives, at school, work, for their families, in their faith.
Ultimately what Dylann Roof did makes no sense in his life or in any larger context of his own goals and ideals. He hoped to be a hero to white supremacists, but he will live out his days in prison watching a nation that I have FAITH - and I also believe I see good evidence - will continue to grow to become wiser and more compassionate, as people integrate more, oppose racism more. Perhaps some evil people will admire him, but most people will despise him, and only very saintly people will forgive him. There will be no "waking up" to a need for a return to White Supremacy. I believe, and hope, that ship has sailed; even as we still suffer under the effects of white supremacy and must continue to resist it, the reality seems to be that the future will belong to Equality. I believe that and I will do everything in my power to make it so. That is what people are truly waking up and seeing.
If Roof wanted to change the world, he could have done so many things; he could have truly educated himself properly, gotten involved politically, voted, volunteered, donated money, marched - hopefully on the right side of things, for peace and equality. He could have sat in that prayer meeting and listened and learned something. Even if he still was a racist his entire life, even if he chose to pursue white supremacy, he still could have been a better person and had a better life than that of the lowest of the low, the man who murders good and innocent people for no good reason and not even to any personal or idealogical gain. HIs life, at only 21, is a waste because of this decision that he can never be free from - except maybe in his own mind, in repentance. That has been the hope of the survivors. And I, too, hope for redemption - maybe not for this one man, but for our entire world. I hope for a world where people can live together in peace. We can make it happen. It is fully within our ability. We just have to want it - all of us.